Thursday, December 27, 2007

The 3rd Use of Grace

OK, OK, back to blog work...

It might be a wonder, we know of the 3rd use of the Law, but in my book there is the 3rd use of Grace. First a review of the uses of the Law is in order:
- 1st use: to externally discipline society
- 2nd use: to make us see our helpless state of sin
- 3rd use: to guide us as to what is pleasing to Him

The 3rd use predominates Evangelicalism so much so that it has been said to be Law-Gospel-Law. The 3rd use is overemphasized that it becomes a New Law which determines Gods attitude towards the Christian. It determines if one's life will be filled with blessings or filled with misery. You do it, then expect blessings to flow to you or you violate it and expect discipline at the corner. There is truth to this of course. This, as you know, either makes you feel you are pulling God's commands off making you Pharisaical or leads you to despair.

We really are Law makers. In fact I recall when I was finishing my degree in Religious Studies, in my OT Judaism class, I recall that the Rabbis believed that "man was created for the Torah". Contrast that with Mk 2:27, but I digress.

The question now is how does Evangelia rescue you from being a Pharisee or from being despondent. Well, to correct our Phariseism, it will say to us "now, that is not nice, don't be like that - stop being a Pharisee" -i.e. more Law. To rescue from despondency, either none is given thereby we burn out and eventually check out of Christianity, or it may say to us "God has grace, you can do it". Here is where the 3rd use of Grace comes in, but let me review first the ideas of Grace.

Taking my cue from the way Grace is mentioned in Thomas Oden's The Justification Reader, I will restate the 3 ideas of Grace in the Bible.
-1st idea: a phase in history when God overrides the Law to show mercy.
-2nd idea: God reconciling himself with humanity, we call this favor dei, God's merciful attitude towards sinners - (cf. the Cross).
-3rd idea: a gift of enabledment to perform a distinctive action by God's help.

The same way that the 3rd use of the Law predominates, the 3rd use of Grace predominates also amongst our Evangelian brethren. Let me illustrate this 3rd use of Grace from a current popular highly acclaimed Evangelical author, from Dr. John Piper's Future Grace. BTW, I appreciate his illustration of the Filipino insight of gratitude in that book, this is called "utang na loob" -i.e. the ethics of gratitude or debtor's ethics (Chapter Two).

Here is a quick quote enjoining us on the 3rd use of Grace, making Grace "gratia infusa" in p.65

In Dr. Piper's Future Grace he says:
The only life I have left to live is future life. The past is not in my hands to offer or alter. It is gone. Not even God will change the past. All expectations of God are future expectations. All the possibilities of faith and love are future possibilities. And all the power that touches me with help to live in love is future power. As precious as the bygone blessings of God may be, if he lives me only with the memory of those, and not with the promise of more, I will be undone. My hope for future goodness and future glory is future grace.

This is quite revealing, because it seems that grace is disentangled from the Cross, the lens from which we see things. It is 180 degrees opposite of the Concordian focus on the uses of the Law and the ideas of Grace. For a Concordian, it is the 2nd use of Grace that predominates, and also the 2nd use of the Law that is lifted high. Hence, for him, the grace in the past at the Cross is still the grace that he needs and clings to for his future , it functions literally in his here and now (this is strange to some), so there is no new or fresh batch of grace. Grace in this respect is neither diminished, gets stale, like bread or is increased. Grace is outside him, that is the focus, whereas in Evangelian talk, Grace is seen as something imparted inside the constitution of the Christian - intra gratia.

Grace for sure
Bluntly we have no promise of future grace as a free standing idea we can hold on to from God. If we want to know if God has "future grace" for us - we will be grasping at straws if we do not see it from the 2nd use of Grace. Yes, God by nature is gracious but where do you find it with certainty? There is no naked Grace of God towards us that is not clothed in Christ's Cross. Besides this, we will interpret our circumstances from a temporal world view and not in the light of eternity.

Which drives what?
In other words, which drives what, which idea of grace drives? I believe there is 3rd use of Law and 3rd use of Grace, but the question is which drives what? We should not disagree that we do have sanctification, we do have it absolutely! That is the nature of faith in the Gospel. We should just refuse for it to be driven by anything except by the 2nd use of Grace.

Monday, December 24, 2007

From the Angel on our Tree

To all my friends and not exactly friends, thanks for all your inputs and inter-actions, they have helped me in my understanding of things. I wish you peace this Christmas and declare to you what the angel said:

"Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[a] the Lord.

What you see here is an angel that is hanging on our tree, she is made of "abaca" hemp otherwise known too as Manila hemp. If you click on the picture, you will see a magnified view of things and you will also notice that the stars and stuff are also made of Manila hemp. Hemp is a good decorative material, it is pretty too, well at least to me, but then as usual, I am biased, but then you know that by now too.

At any rate, don't leave this page without stopping a bit and consider what the angel just said, that is the point - no more fear, Jesus has come, God has provided for you(us) a Saviour. Amen

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I'll drink a toast to you - OFW


I am sure you have not heard of it. For the lowly Indio, it stands for Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW). These are Filipinos who decided to leave their homeland to work for a living somewhere in the world. They are all over the world, that is literally true, so much so that some sociologists are dubbing this the Filipino Diaspora. You might find it a contradiction in terms because psychologically, the Filipino is deeply entrenched in his love for his native land. The Indios are enigmatic, they are superb in assimilation, they can absorb, they can adopt, they can blend, they can talk the way you do with accent, intonation and all, but when you rip their chests, and take a look at their hearts, you will see their hearts beating love for their native land. It is the place the Indio loves and dreams about but could not live in nor have it. His body may be somewhere but his mind is where he was born. So he works, and saves and sends money to P.I. It is known that they, on the average, send US $8B to the P. I. If not for the OFW, the country would have gone down the toilet already (i.e to the dogs).

Name a country and I am sure there is an OFW there. They are in Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Macau, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea even as far as Finland. In the Middle East they are in - Qatar, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Israel. Some of them are managers, engineers, laborers, maids, cooks, or drivers; you name a profession, an OFW covers that.

Each Christmas time, the OFWs heart goes through a wrenching agony of loneliness; for you see to the Indio, the family is everything. It is for the family that is why they have become OFWs in the first place! They leave for the sake of providing something better for their families. They hope that in their sacrifices something good might come, not for them, but for their moms, dads, brother, sister or their children. It is their hope that something good for the future may come, and we know, hope is quite a dangerous thing. The Indio finds his identity through his family. Ask them what they wish for in life and they will say "oh, I just want an intact family". That is their hope.

I am sure this Christmas eve, they will spend the night with their Karaokes belting out Barry Manilow's songs (now there is a guy who is cute and charming, if you are like that, you can get away with anything in P.I.) and the Indio Christmas carols. Then they lay their head to sleep with tears in their eyes as they muse to themselves -- here you are a care giver in Israel, and you are taking care of someone else's grandma or grandpa. Here you are rendering service to elders who are not your own. The domestic helper in Singapore cries herself to sleep, it is Christmas after all, and here you are nursing, feeding, caring for someone else's baby while you have been there now for 6 years away from your very own child who has grown up without your care, oblivious of what it would be like to have your arms surround her. Christmas, a time spent for the family, what is meant to give joy, suddenly and in the end, brings sadness. It is not easy being poor, and so no wonder you have a temporal concept of being "saved".

I like you to know OFW, I respect you.

I will mention a prayer for you in our noche buena and drink a toast too, to you my OFW. For I want you to know, I understand. But not I alone, but your Lord Jesus understands too. Look at your suffering and sacrifice, and then in His, and know that yours is only a pattern of the real sacrifice - that one of Christ - he was sent outside the gate, the scape goat, the fall guy - He too was an "OFW".

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A cultural Christian eyh.

Apparently the atheist Dawkins is a Christian after all, a cultural Christian.

Read here.

Now what the blazing saddles does that mean? Is it like Bishop Spong being a Christian too?

I suspect the post-modern notion that the art viewer is free to interpret and redefine what the author intends his art to mean is what is happening here. The viewer participates in like a play where in the thing itself is given some mystical meaning so profound you have to be crazy first to get what the post-modern is talking about. Besides, getting it is not important, if you do not like it just re-define it to your own liking.

This surely defies the sacred notion of "definition" so loved by mathematicians. Their art is no longer possible and dissolves if post modernism gets into their craft.

The Quotable Elder

This is dedicated again to Dr. Maher.

Past Elder said something worth giving a major focus:

The Roman church to me now lacks any credibility whatsoever, though within it as within other heterodox to the point of being marginally if at all Christian bodies the true catholic church of Christ can be found. As an institution, it is simply the state religion of the Western Roman Empire in its anachronistic post Imperial existence, now lamely trying to address a world to which it is irrelevant. To behold it now reminds me of the reaction those who remembered the First Temple had when seeing the Second -- tears that such a pathetic shadow of what was before is all there is. But by the grace of God I now know that what was before was no "First Temple" but itself fallen.
Now I can see why the lack of credibility is mentioned and I think I have also said something in the past that illustrates this. Let me explain as an example.

Let us for the sake of argument consider ole Mother Church through the Magisterium is being asked to decide on an issue that requires either a yes or no, or in another vain, either declare it is an A or NOT A. So what happens say is that they declared --"folks it is A" (say like that in Vatican I).... So time ticks away and many many years passed and fresh questions on the same issue gets a hearing but essentially similar points. The Magisterium comes around and say --"folks it is NOT A" (say like in Vatican II).

So you scratch your head and you say ---"now come on, you changed your mind on this haven't ya"? They say "Nah, you see LP, we have always believed it to be NOT A"...."you know back then in the distant past we said A, but actually we are clarifying what we meant by that today and what we meant then was it has always been NOT A". They continue ..."No we have not changed, we are just clarifying what we meant by A back then, and what we meant by it is that it is NOT A".

Now, I dunno bout you, but this is the kind of thing why there are Sedevacantists and why they seem to be growing. The only thing is that the former does not like to admit what the old Protestants have been saying all along, corruption is possible.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Causing faith to believe in itself.

I heard that one of the significant people in my life passed away a year ago. He was a pastor of mine. Though he and I along with the others he nurtured parted company with him based on some teachings that was introduced on the subject of prayer, I still have fond and thankful memories of him. I recall sermons after sermons which we enjoyed that came from him, sermons that focused us on Jesus' person. Those were the good days, the happy days when you walked out of the service having confidence in Christ as you go back home. He was a scholar, fluent in NT Greek and OT Hebrew. Where I came from that was no small thing. He conducted nationally televised debates with a prominent RC Bishop of Manila and these debates numbered hours and hours - I recall 6 hours of telecast in one instant.

I noticed I was mourning inside and if not for my penchant for busy-ness, I would have been dysfunctional for quite a number of days.

As I thought of the Rev, a popular passage often quoted/recited in that church was Jeremiah 17:5-8 . There were good and not so good teachings, so you do it like when you are eating a fish, you get the meat but chuck away the bones. Here is what that passage states and how it can be mis-applied and used to stress faith in faith, giving it a hue of works.
5Thus says the LORD,
"(M)Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind
And makes (N)flesh his strength,
And whose heart turns away from the LORD.
6"For he will be like a (O)bush in the desert
And will not see when prosperity comes,
But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness,
A (P)land of salt without inhabitant.
7"(Q)Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD
And whose (R)trust is the LORD.
8"For he will be like a (S)tree planted by the water,
That extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of (T)drought
Nor cease to yield fruit.
Focusing on verses 5 & 7 brings a challenge, is where I am at. The promise there can easily be turned to a Law. For example, let us say, you are sick and your attitude is that - "that is ok the meds will do th job - she'll be right mate". Or you are in a financial fix and you say in your heart --"she'll be right mate, the bank will lend me money". Seems like those attitudes can easily condemn. Also it can be turned into Law when you encounter doubts about the capacity of God to deliver you, and thus it is rock crushing you. In such a case, we can easily with no help from the devil run ourselves to the ground as we frantically notice our anxieties, our heart accuses us with an alert "hey I am not trusting in God in this trouble, I am cursed". It is quite subtle in that for the case of being sick, perhaps to show faith in God, you might not go to the doctor or not take medicines and we have heard of this happened before right? For the second example, you may just look to the sky hoping that God may open up heaven and drop you a bundle of $100 bills. Silly, I know but wait...

It seems to me there is further application of this. For example, say in terms of my salvation and being accepted by God - am I internally saying to God, "I should be ok with you and you should let me in since I am a member of your one True Church", or "I should be ok with you I have been giving to the poor, I give my excess stuff to Salvation Army", or "I should be ok, I have been faithfully going to mass or services all my life, I have been coming to Bible Studies, doing my devotionals, " etc. or any such things? In this case the curse does apply, doesn't it? It is mankind trusting in their own selves, their own strength whereas the latter, the one blessed, has no other trust but in and the Lord alone. The latter strips himself of anything his heart relies on and has nothing to hang on to but God in His kindness.

The Small Catechism has this for the 2nd Commandment:
We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

From Augsburg, Article IV: Of Justification.

1] Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for 2] Christ's sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. 3] This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Doubts and Dilemmas

Questioning is never a good thing from the backgrounds I came from. From the perspective of Mother Church where I was born and grew up, questioning is like bucking at the authority of the anointed Church. Then coming to Charismania, I see the whole thing over again. This time with a different twist, to question is to question the anointing of the minister. In the latter, you are considered a trouble maker. I have heard of people I used to minister to being shunned because they have questions that they mistakenly shared in their Bible Study. So when it comes to doubts on doctrine, you are shunned. When it comes to dilemmas like practical problems of life like problems with relationship, health, guidance etc., they are easily dismissed by a quote from Scripture here or there; like saying here is aspirin, go take it and you should be better in no time. That should fix it.

There are no doubts and dilemmas now a days because all questions that can be asked have been answered already, or so you'd been made to think. Like one time somebody quipped - if Jesus is the answer, what is the question?

However, to have no doubts nor dilemmas is to me to walk by sight and not by faith. Sweeping doubts and dilemmas under the carpet, is living in denial. A Christian life that produces no doubts nor dilemmas is in my thinking sub-Christian.

I think this is looking at the Word of God through the eyes of the senses, i.e. the world. It is like saying - well that one there in the Word is this one here. It is the reverse of looking at the senses through the eyes of the Word. I think in the latter, you see the Word and see your senses and you say, the Word says this, but my senses say otherwise - this to me naturally produces doubts and dilemmas. Well to illustrate, you look at yourself and you see sin in your life, and it is without a doubt (pun here) real. Then you look at the Word and it says God accepts you in Christ for Christ has answered for you, and your mind says -- that is just way too good to be true. So it is not uncommon to encounter doubts and dilemmas in Christian life for what is too good will not go on without its attackers, its very too-goodness invites its challengers and so I look forward to go to church to hear again and again, the promises of God are real and they are for me (you).

My grandmother when she was alive would tell me stories of her experience during WW II, during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines prior to The General (MacArthur) returning. Her stories were so vivid, and as a boy I noted how her eyes revealed that she was re-living the trauma and the deliverance from that part of her life. She told me these stories several times and each time as vivid and the same. Sometimes, to while the time, I would be the one to ask her, "tell me the story again" and she virtually brings me there, like I travel a time machine with her and I was with her seeing her fears and hopes.

My presence in church is a sign that I am virtually asking the preacher/pastor to tell me the story of God's promises again. Tell me again what God promised me because I am prone to doubt and see dilemmas.

It seems to me a Christian understanding of faith that leaves no room for mysteries and leaves no room for un-answered questions (with an attitude that even trivializes these), is to say the least, a sub-Christian view of faith.

2 Corinthians 1:20

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.

Friday, December 07, 2007


I am going to be very busy these days toward the festivities so my posting will be sparse. We are attempting again to get my thesis submitted by end of Jan 2008. It is amazing how you find things to improve on, so God have mercy while I get locked away writing a couple more chapters. I will let you know if I succeed.

There is one thing that struck me while I was reading the BoC. I was struck that it uses the word "ass" several times. I counted, it uses it 8 times.

Now, some will be offended that the word is used or mentioned in the confessions. Lately, as I encounter people in the internet, I can not help but feel sympathy for the way the BoC uses this word. There are really asses around.

The lessons in Proverbs 26:4-5 came home to me lately and I think this passage is humorous. Indeed, there are times you should not be answering these asses as Proverbs say; because I note by experience, that when you answer these asses when you are not supposed to, you do go away feeling like one.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Peace to those who visit here

A while back I was burdened to pray for people who visit here.

Peace to all those who visit here.

For whatever reason you might have landed on this web log, my prayer goes to you, be you a Christian believer or not, my prayer is for you, be you a friend or foe. You may have wondered off here and left a message or you may have just looked around and went your way. Either way, my prayer is the same.

My prayer is that you may find peace with God through the benefits provided by Christ - the Saviour and Lord, Messiah.

Peace to you who enter these pages.

Luke 2:
But the angel said to them, "(H)Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a (I)Savior, who is [c](J)Christ (K)the Lord.12"(L)This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." 13And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,14"(M)Glory to God in the highest,And on earth peace among men [d](N)with whom He is pleased.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Says something about some of us

Here is the bigger picture here.

[Pr. Kurt if you are reading, let me know if you got a laugh].

If you do not get a chuckle at this, you should get one in the CrummyChurch Signs.

What is on the rise?

My North American friends might find this interesting.

My friend Matt from a beloved list I am still a member of shared with us this information that in SBC, the number of Calvinists are increasing. Read here.

This is one of the things that does not surprise me. I doubt if Bro. JK is surprised with this too.

As and ex-Evangelian, I am not at all taken a back at this. Many people from non-denominational, charismatic, baptistic groups have already been sensing the instability in the movement for many years. They are burnt out and dried out. For example, one of my friends, a fellow minister in the Pentecostal denomination I belonged (many moons ago), is now with a confessing, Reformed and charismatic denomination, namely the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC).

It is natural for Evangelians to examine Calvinism because it is the closest to their doctrinal ancestry, so fair enough Calvinism is the one that gets examined first. This happened to me. That is the way this cookie crumbles. However, Evangelians are carrying over their natural flare of being pragmatists in the examination of the Christian tradition they should link back with. They are studying Calvinism from popularizers rather than study the Reformed confessions in history. They are doing dip theology, that is right, I say they are doing dip theology and not deep theology. They do cafeteria picking and choosing like ordering food from a menu. From popularizers these seekers are picking up Owenian Calvinism which is a nasty viral strain (see Calvin and Calvinism for some cures) with very coarse edges. They are doing the short cuts again. IMHO (you knew that was coming, but what else do I have, but that), this cafeteria method will not do. One should not transfer the mindset which made Evangelicalism precisely in turmoil to the process of examining confessions, there is no choice but to chuck away the pragmatism it was founded upon in the first place. No, hard yakka (i.e. an Aussie word for -- work) in terms of study is needed.

In a similar vain, through the Internet, you get to hear of many stories how Evangelians became RCs. Many RC e-pologists were former Evangelicals, if you notice. They are doing the things they got from Evangelicalism - the use of testimonies, making RC user-friendly, a bit of marketing here and there etc.

However, for reflection, I think there is lesson to be learned from Pr. Will Weedon's motto, "everyone wants to be a Lutheran; they just don't know it yet". I think he is onto something, there is something profound to this quip. I think it has a good amount of truth if by that is meant Old Lutheranism and its attachment to the Gospel; I can say "yes", this is what Evangelians and burnt out Charismatics are looking for, they can not just articulate it. My prayer is that we might be given a chance to help formulate such articulations and in the process Christ might be formed once again, in us and in them. This is joy, for Christ in his saving and forgiving office can not be but the only everlasting joy we long for. We are really looking for this, we just don't know it yet.

Friday, November 30, 2007

God helps me find parking spots too.

I get Joel Osteen's program where I am. So when I want to get amused I turn on to the channel he is in and I watch his program. I feel awful because I am doing this now-a-days to be entertained rather than be edified. I can not help it but the kind of attitude that happens to me is - "Let's see what weird stuff is he teaching this time".

One time I tuned in and I did hear Joel's story how God helps him find parking spots. I have some incidents of the same. In fact some little things I asked God to help me, He does. One time I was in Singapore for work. I was with a work mate. We went both to a shop to buy some camera accessories, and guess what, the store gave me a discount but they would not give him. I have heaps of these God favors you stories, it will bore you.

Just recently I was rebuilding a PC which I bought for $100, from a student. I upgraded it with some of my plug-in peripherals, guess what when I switched it on, it started beeping, a sign that something was wrong. You know I know a bit about hardware but the thing just beeped and beeped and I could not determine where the problem was. I took out the hardwares I plugged in and it still beeped. I was doing this for 30 minutes and I was at my wits end. I was getting anxious of the possibility of having to send this PC to a "real" computer technician to get it going and I was thinking I would be spending more than a couple of hundred dollars in addition to already that I shelled out. It was hot in my home office and I was sweating, figuring out what was wrong. Finally I blurted out - "Lord help me ". I do not know what went into my mind that I found myself trying again by jiggling fit the screen connection to the graphics card. It was not that tight and secure. I tried it tightening the screws, it worked. That did it. God answered my prayer. It is now running the free system I also like to use - Mepis. (You see I made a vow, I will never use Windows XP/Vista etc unless I am doing something for a client).

So I go back now to this "parking spot" request to God. I have no doubt God answers big and small requests according to his will. But let us assume that you are in a pickle, you are late for an important appointment, and you got to the place where you need to be and there is no parking spot, so you pray to God and still no parking spot can be found? What will you say? By the way Joel teaches - I probably say - "God, what is with you, you are so great you created this whole wide world, put stars in the sky and the mountains and the hills, you own the cattle there and yet won't even give me a puny little parking spot, you are nasty"! I suspect, his making spiritual out of every incident in life, I believe, will easily make one a cynic. Well, not him perhaps but those that swallow his teaching.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

God loves Himself, to some, it seems.

Over at Dr. Ben Witherington's blog there is a flurry of conversation. Dr. Witherington blogged a post entitled For God So Loved Himself; is God a narcissist? He was reacting to the theme of a forthcoming book on the New Testament (by Dr. Thomas Schreiner?) which is 'God magnifying himself through Jesus Christ by means of the Holy Spirit'. For Witherington, this makes God look hungry for self-adulation. So it is not surprising that Dr. John Piper should react to what Witherington said, so he replied and responded here.

Looking at the comments at Witherington's post, it is also not a wonder the discussion revolves around most on Piper.

Why am I not surprised with that and with Piper's reply? Because Piper has the same subject in his book Desiring God! So I was not surprised. He talks the same way in his book. After reading, you will get the impression that God is preoccupied with himself. I know I did, but I only saw this and became bothered when I moved out and consider Jesus and His Cross as the hermeneutic for reading Scripture. I do not think you can see this if Law and Gospel is not at the forefront of your psyche. ...So it caused a great concern to me. Why? I recommended the book several years ago to my friends and family, I even have 2 copies! Boy, am I eating my words now! This blog website is a record of my repentance

Simply put, Piper's over arching theology (and BTW, Christian Hedonism he confesses is his guiding principle in life) may be stated by quoting his own words...

Ultimate self-denial[on God's part] would be idolatry in God.
In other words, it seems to me that God would be sinning against himself if God did not have Himself as His object of love.

Last September I said something about this which I recorded in Properly Speaking -- I am not a Christian Hedonist...

Here is a portion of what I recorded...

His [Piper's] way of speaking makes God seem like self-absorbed. Such rendition makes God his own self-interest, hence, God loves himself and not us who indeed deserve no love from him. The mystery of Psalm 8:4, seems to no longer hold in this quote. Love is a relational term but it seems God loves himself and for Dr. Piper, for God not to love himself and instead love others besides him, makes God no longer God, it is unbecoming of Him. Because God commands us to love Him, does that mean that He loves himself really and is that the very reason why He commands us so? Is God saying to us – because I love myself, then you ought to love me too? Is He saying "hey people, I want you to love me, like I love myself".

In my mind ( and I am sure in others), the way God is glorified is by telling the drama of the Gospel. The story is that we have spurned the love of God towards us by our sin and instead of punishing us, He gave what we deserve to His Son and then set us free and forgiven. The way God gets glory from us is by showing us mercy. We are criminals and we have been left off the hook. It is an eternal debt of gratitude now because of that.

Monday, November 26, 2007

How Scripture is used

Augustinian Successor shares this:
In Evangelicalism the authority of Scripture is seen not in terms of its efficacy but its status as the divinely-revealed source of truth from which principles and concepts can be abstracted. Thus the Bible becomes the "how to" book for the Christian life. For Luther and the Confessions the Bible is that book which proclaims Christ Jesus, thus delivering the salvation which He has won for us. For Evangelicalism the Bible is the book that tells us what we must do to be saved and lead the Christian life. If we assume that because Confessional Lutherans and conservative Protestants speak a similar language regarding inerrancy they share a common understanding of the function of the Holy Scriptures, we will fail to see the profound differences that exist between the two in such matters as sin, grace, faith, justification, sanctification, the sacraments, the Office of the Holy Ministry, and the doctrine of the church." (Rev. Dr. John T Pless, Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana - LCMS)

PRECISELY! The evangelical mentality is that the Bible is revered as words of divine wisdom, but not conveying in reality what it proclaims, namely forgiveness of sins and salvation. But this is why evangelicalism is legalism. It makes salvation conditional, rather than proclaiming the unconditional promise which is received by faith alone.

Very insightful statement from Rev. Dr. Pless!

Achmed The Terrorist (dead one)

Good evening infidel. Silence! I kill you!

They really are Owenian

I am thoroughly amazed as to how popular John Owen happens to be amongst popular American Calvinists. Owen was a thoroughly going Limited Atonement guy. For example, he is the beloved guru of Dr. John Piper who hails him and Dr. J. I. Packer who is a great fan.

Owen thoroughly denies that Jesus died for the sins of the world, and by "world" it is as we usually mean and the Bible means[hang on a minute before you dump me your exegesis] -- all people of the world. It is a speculation that leaves no room for speculation either.

Let me give you a taste of Owen's logic:
It is best demonstrated in line with the question: why are some people not in heaven? We would answer this by saying : because of their unbelief. He responds by saying: Well, if Jesus died for the sins of the world, and people who dis-believe are in hell, that means there are sins that Jesus did not die for, since clearly - the sin of unbelief is that sin. He then retorts: since people who dis-believe wind up in perdition, Jesus did not suffer for the sin of unbelief of these people, because had he did, they would be in heaven. See further here.

Can you see the tightness of this syllogism? Can you see his consistency with his foundational theology - Sovereignty of God?

Firstly, this transfers a doctrine of atonement in the reverse. In other words, he looks at the end point and reason backwards. The fact that people are not in heaven, means Jesus did not die for these people, since they never came to faith (I guess this is how to paraphrase Owen's logic). If we have no Biblical passages like 1 John 2:1-2, or Mk 16:16 then Owen's logic is impenetrable. Atonement and faith are lumped together in this reasoning whereas in the Bible these are two categories or concepts though related are not the same thing. Owen collapses these concepts and makes conclusions and to be honest, if you are Owenian, you can not help but slip down to the side effect of his logic ---believe that God purposely damns people i.e. He is the author of damnation and salvation of people.

You know when I was toying with Calvinism, I am often get spin-out how Calvinists promote that Calvin was a Calvinist. I have not read a lot of Calvin but I read his exegesis on these atonement passages and I walk away convinced that he did not believe in Limited Atonement. You will find it hard to convince me that Calvin was a TULIP-ian. Yes, Calvin was quite confusing at times - he is not as deep as Luther, but there are more passages that I think Calvin can not have possibly meant limited atonement but rather asserts general atonement instead. I have met TULIPians in the Internet who even call Calvin a heretic for not being a thorough going TULIPian.

The thing is that Calvinists today are Owenian, they are not really Calvinian in regards to Limited Atonement. Why do I say that? Because there are Calvinists writers who dis-believe in Owenian Limited Atonement, but they do not get an air play. Politics in the realm of theology does happen. Guess what, when a Calvinist starts bucking at this LA deal, you know what they will be called? They will be called Arminians, if not suspected of being one... boy are they in trouble. Horrors! That is like being treated like you have STD [of course in Lutheran circles we have leper labels too - I will let you guess what that label is, let me know if you get stuck].

Thankfully, my suspicion that Calvin was not a Calvinist (in the sense not TULIPian, 5-Point Calvinist) found support and relief one day. I found this blog called Calvin and Calvinism blog which is dedicated to giving you quotes related to Reformed idea of the Atonement; and if you are Owenian, you deserve to hear the truth so for truth's sake go there.

There are still quite a lot of aspects in Calvin that I think are over shots but that is another blog post meant for another day.

The moral of the story is that - not all self identifying Calvinist are Owenian, I call them Calvinians. A Calvinian should quote Doorman-Priest who said "these are the people that give people like me, a bad name"[incidentally, Jesus could say the same for Christians too].

These Calvinians are out there and I would not mind meeting these inconsistent Calvinists as friends and discuss some of our common points as well as differences in the spirit of Christian conversation.

Just letting you know.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Bits and Pieces

This is just odds and ends of special mentions and that, like.... you know?

I ordered this cross from Kelly. She makes Christian Art and other stuffs. I call this Kellly's cross, or perhaps it should be Alex's cross, since she made it originally for him. You can order yours from Kelly here.

I hope to put it in my study or some part of our home.

Then also, Past Elder had a burst of blogging lately and I am so glad he did because his piece on Armistice here is, as chess players say..."brilliant".

I will not spoil the ending for you so I will not review it here, except that I will warn you, you will be blessed with the insights spread up there.

Eric has opened up an internet community for those curious of the Lutheran tradition and so if you are curious, you got inquiries, questions, exploring Christianity etc., I invite you to be a member of The Wittenberg Trail so to find out more, click on this image below.


I am feeling nostalgic and so I am clipping here my favorite guitarist. I got introduced to his playing when I saw Woodstock.

. Well, the best style to use if you want to dance to this music is ... as the title has it... Samba. But I think I can do Rumba on this one too and switch to Merengue on the tail end. I know, I can be so carnal sometimes, it is just so un-spiritual of me, sorry.

One of my pet dreams is one day to play this tune in my trumpet. To get to know what I mean, just imagine the guitar is sounding off a trumpet sound. Ayayay, caramba, only in my dreams, no?

Monday, November 19, 2007


In some ministry circles, there is such a thing as a "dynasty". Let me explain the scenario and how a dynasty is formed...

So a pastor gets called. In some present day circles, when a pastor is called, the congregation believe the wife is called too... to co-pastor with the pastor the church. So often you will see the husband and wife pastor team with not only the husband having the title " pastor" but the pastor's wife gets it too. So they get children and they raise their children in church, and so they become adults. When the husband-wife pastors retire, the baton is passed to one of the children. So one of the offspring becomes the pastor of the church, he/she has a spouse and the spouse gets the title pastor too. Thus, the cycle continues.

It is a church dynasty or some call it ministerial dynasty. Fascinating practice, no?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Evil, Sovereignty and... Tears

I might have blogged about this, but truth is worth saying twice.

They say that the Problem of Evil is a problem for a Christian and not for Atheists. Although Atheists do (some) become atheists by not being able to reconcile how a Sovereign God could allow Evil to go on, unstopped, it is eventually the Christian who is left with the ball standing. In the end the Atheist has no Evil to talk about because its meaning is dependent on the existence of God. So the Atheist resolves the problem by eliminating categories. Simply put, there is a hidden premise operating in the Atheist's reasoning, namely, if we allow G = God exists and E = Evil exists the premise is : G -> NOT E. By contra-positioning this, we have E -> NOT G. Obviously Evil exists, hence asserting E, therefore, NOT G, i.e. God does not exist. I do not mean to be insulting but technically, the Atheist's world view would have to be this: We have Evil without God. Evil is the only reality then, at least if the Atheist be honest, (s)he should say that. Evil is the only reality. It is not a very prospective future is it?

There is also I think another hidden premise that Atheists are operating on, that is: the Sovereignty of God is the final message of Christianity. Now, is that presupposition accurate? Is that the story of Christianity? If Sovereignty is all there is about Christianity and Evil exists, I do not find it surprising that some wind up being Atheists. It is perfectly logical to be one.

This is my observation, when the Sovereignty of God is all there is and it is detached from the Story of the Cross of Christ, there are only two things that can happen, you either slump into despair or become an unbeliever. The Sovereignty of God however, is not the final message of Christianity - it is Jesus and His Cross. And if you are a Christian, and all your hearers hear from you is God is Sovereign like Allah is Great! well...IMHO, you are helping skeptics become Atheists.

For Atheists and Christians to preoccupy themselves with God's Sovereignty on one hand and Evil on the other is to dwell in a philosophical distraction. For a question has to be answered - yes, God is Sovereign and yes, there is Evil and the two are conflicting, but why the Cross? What was Jesus doing there?

I am just like you, when I am well I can sit here and pontificate and give advice, but honestly, I am as anxious as anyone else. I have no guarantee that God will intervene, in a manner that I want, over tragedies (i.e. Evil) that may come to my life. The truth is that when Evil hits us, we are left with nothing but lonely tears. David has this to say about tears...
8You have kept count of my tossings;[a]
(C) put my tears in your bottle.
(D) Are they not in your book?
Psalm 56:8

Has God put my(your) tears (i.e Tragedies, Evil) in His bottle? I believe He has, He has taken all our tears and put it on the person/ body of our Saviour Jesus Christ (His "bottle") when he nailed Him on that Cross 2000 years ago. He took your sins (and yes your tears too) and nailed it on Jesus. Though physically Jesus does not take take out our experience of being in tears, and we will be touched by them, no doubts about it, yet God has taken them for what reality they represent (Evil) and hanged them on Jesus.

8He will (B)swallow up death for all time,
And the Lord GOD will (C)wipe tears away from all faces,
And He will remove the (D)reproach of His people from all the earth;
For the LORD has spoken.
Isaiah 25:8

Psalm 56:8 is followed by verse 9 (obviously)

9Then my enemies will (S)turn back (T)in the day when I call;
This I know, [c]that (U)God is for me.
Psalm 56:9

Do not forget the for you there in that verse. Look at Christ on the Cross because of your sins.... and be convinced, God's Sovereignty is for you.

UPDATE: Just after posting I came across this which may help in talking about "Tears".

Monday, November 12, 2007


You have probably heard of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ), a document signed by Lutheran and RC theologians explaining that they now agree on the article of justification, right? Have you heard of my JDDI? It stands for the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Indulgences, I call this JDDI. It is not formulated yet, but I propose its construction.

I have been carried over to a discussion with Fr. Pontificator (in one of the blogs I stick my nose in) on the idea that the Lutherans and the RCs are now agreed on justification. One of the salvos in this direction is to point that these groups signed the JDDJ and that there are RC scholars (e.g. Frs. Joseph Fitzmeyer etc.) who agree that iustificare means to declare righteous hence, siding with the Lutheran Protestants, rather than make righteous.

I do have a very simple (read stupid) point to make. I will believe that the Lutherans agree now on justification with the RCs if they both sign a document on JDDI. My suspicion is that those Lutheran guys who signed the JDDJ would probably not have signed it had there been statements that indulgences were still ok. The thing is that it has no mention of such a topic. So there, I propose that in dialog with Mother Church, the first thing on the agenda should be my JDDI.

Oh, incidentally, in as much as we can commend Fr. Fitzmeyer's scholarship in that he proves that the Reformers were correct, we have to remember, the good Father is not an official spokes person for the Magisterium, OK? We must remember the RC e-pologists call such RC scholars as "liberal".

So there, what do you think, what are the things we can say that prove that the Lutherans are now in agreement with the RCC? I propose the RCs sign the BoC or if not sign a JDDI...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Wow, man, you're so peculiar you're cool

I got some more to say on propter fidem vs propter Christum but I will pause for a moment.

Let us face it, there are some things in this world that are so weird, they are hip. Rather than being far out, it is really in, it is awesome. Here is an example of how a liturgy has attracted young people, read it at a New York Times article here.

From what I recall about Luther, I understood him to say that if one is looking where the Church is; the person is to look where the Word is preached and the Sacraments are properly administered. I do not recall him advising that the person is to look at how transcendent/mysterious or how charismatic/modern or how pretty the liturgy happens to be. I might have missed it but do point me out where I misunderstood Luther in this regard.

There is a saying that what got them in, keeps them in and at that ...with more power/intensity as the days go by.

Hmmm, if I am a pastor and my people are coming to me for various reasons other than that they hear the Gospel from me, I'd better be disappointed... at myself.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

More mile high differences.

I am still on the trail of distinguishing propter Christum versus propter fidem (see previous post).

I think we may determine where we are standing based on the hypothetical question that God may ask of us. The question is this; how shall we answer God if he asked us - why should I let you come into my heaven?

How we answer this question will say where we are standing. We will set aside the answer "because I was a good boy". We know that won't wash because it would not answer why Jesus was on the cross.

One can answer the question in the following ways, then...:
a.) "because I believe Jesus died on the cross for me"
b.)"because Jesus died on the cross for me".


Notice that the difference is subtle and may seem faint, but again, they are worlds apart, they are as different as night is from day.

With a.) you are still inserting yourself or what is inside you into the equation. Here one is still posing to God what is happening in one's self, and hence, I would say you are doing a propter fidem. To be honest with you, I think this view reduces in effect to the Roman Catholic understanding of justification. I am sorry to say, but you would be practically functioning as an RC in your understanding of the Christian faith.

With b.) we are giving as plain as the answer can be given, there is nothing about you doing or having anything, it is just Jesus doing something for you. Here Jesus comes in between you and God. Sure, you do believe, but you are confessing what you believe, that He did it all for your sins. I would say this is propter Christum, none of you but all of Christ - solus Christus.

I heard Dr. Nagel said one time in a broadcast of Issues Etc, saying that - when you go to the Bible (I think he meant in the Epistles), each time you see "faith" substitute in its place "Christ" and you will understand what being justified through faith means. So for example we can get Romans 5:1 and try it there. Did you see the effect? Nagel's substitution works because Jesus' death, burial and resurrection is for our justification.

If you asked me, I think, Dr. Nagel's advice is pretty good.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Miles Apart

Faith - an act or and attitude?

I have been reading a book by Charled Arand (when I get bored with the thesis) and I came to an interesting point when he related the story of Henry E. Jacobs. Jacobs was considering whether he will continue with Methodist style revivalism or continue with his Lutheran confessionalism. He said that in the revivalism in America it was

justification -- per Christum propter fidem (justification by Christ on account of faith)

rather than

justification -- per fidem propter Christum
(justification by faith on account of Christ).

One might say, well there is no difference. Yes there is and the difference is miles and even galaxies apart. The first emphasizes faith, the latter emphasizes Christ. The first leads to faith in faith, the latter leads faith to Christ. On what account are we justified? On account of faith (which can be turned to works), or on account of Christ (this you can never turn to a work). Consequently the experience of conversion becomes the focus of the first but Christ becomes the one that is prominent in the second. The first will make you look inside, the second will make you look outside.

Now being trained to listen about faith as an act continues to be my plague, the 25+ years of living in that psyche is a battle. In an unguarded moment, I notice myself cycling on the first. I also noticed that for Jacobs, faith is an attitude rather than an act. This difference caused Jacobs to retreat from revivalism and settle on confessional Lutheranism.

Think about it too. propter fidem or propter Christum?

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Rock - of stumbling

This is Uluru (Ayer's Rock), probably the biggest rock on Earth. Well, you can climb this rock and build your house on it and let it support you. Or, your 4X4 wheeler can slam on its walls and break you into pieces.

I am still on the trail of "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God" - the Rock. This Rock though can make people stumble.
Have a look at what Paul says in Rom 9:33
"Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame."
I am sometimes amazed that many Christians that I know of do not have a problem with faith. Not to put them down, of course, if the Gospel is something you do and you have done what it is , of course, it need not function more in your Christian walk., the doing experience has been done so you can put that on the shelve. Yet the Gospel is not what you have to do.

The Gospel is too good to be true, and our minds can stumble at the promise that by Christ's work, our sins have been forgiven. People that I know of do not seem to worry about it any longer nor wonder at it. However, I do meet people, a few of them, who say to me - this promise is so amazing, my mind sometimes can not wrap itself around it. I think these latter people are hit by its impact, just like it hits me.

You and I can stumble at this Rock. Our minds can be so bungled up that we go back to doing some form of works to get right with God. In other words, we can fall into unbelief and go back to doing the Law as a means of getting on the good side of God. Not only are we idol makers, we are law makers too. We are superb in adding to what is free.

Although to some the Gospel is a one off experience, I now realize, boy, do I need to hear it said of me - Christ died for your sins, he loves you and has answered for you.

Let me cite an example...have a look at Romans 7, the teaching that we are sinners and saints at the same time. Now, with the revival of Calvinism in evangelia, some are now adhering to the Lutheran simul iustus et pecator. The thing though is that though they admit they are both sinner and saint, they focus on their saint side, while I, for some reason, get to focus on the sinner side of me. Because I live with myself, and I know more my failings, the sinner side of me makes me sometimes wonder about my saintly side. Hence, I can start doubting if I am a saint and even if acknowledging the sinner I am, I can say, I am so much a wretch, how can God do that?

You can forget the Rock, the one outside you. So I need this Rock coming down to crush my doubts because this Rock says - it is done, finished, it is taken away, carried in my Body and nailed with me on the tree, my Cross is greater than your sins. I need to hear the Rock (which is Christ) to say to me - sin does not have the final say in your life - my Cross and I do. Amen.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Harry Potter and the Gay Character

I have never read any of the books by J. K. Rowling. Ever since the series came out and the Christian talk, either pro or con against the them happened, I never stopped for a moment to give any of them my thoughts at all. I do not have time to read these novels, I am already distracted by this blog.

Besides I reasoned, OK so there they are, now are there not books out there that children can read too? What is so special about these stories? It is just another story amongst many, well that is the thought that comes to my mind.

Here is the kicker, apparently, J. K. Rowling admitted that she purposely used Christian themes in here books and to that the Christian pro-Harry-Potterites felt vindicated and happy.

This week, she let them down and came out and said that one of her characters is gay. So the Christian pro-Harry-Potterites are scratching their heads and mumbled - "hey, what is up with that? we thought you got Christian themes"! At any rate just for a news trivia, an RC school is banning the HP books.

Let me throw a suggestion -- perhaps she was using the word "Christian" in a different sense, comprende?

Please, come on, don't tell me I have no right to comment on something I have never read. Must one read the book in order to judge it? What canon law is that?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sinners in the hands of an angry preacher

That is my guess. As I type this I am listening to Dr. Tom Baker's analysis of Jonathan Edward's famous sermon. Listen to Pr. Baker's critique here. Should you want to see my own analysis of Edward's sermon I made in 2006, it is found here.

The title of this post is what I guess Pr. Tom will use to rename the sermon. Am I correct? Listen to the end, I haven't reached it yet so my guess answer is either spot on or way off left field.

Should my guess title be wrong, sometimes I think though that the title is true; I felt like that way back when until I realized I am still a sinner too even after being converted. I seem to be a bit more relaxed now, not that much angry, since I am a sinner too.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Marty Looser?

Sometimes I get bored and lonely writing my thesis. A theorem to prove there, a diagram to draw here, tighten the argument here, rephrase the paragraph there. Reformation Day is coming so here are some inspirational mp3s to fire up the flame that once was in your bones. I am rallying the troops. Courtesy of and iron sharpens iron.

Play this, then this, and then this, finally this. I will stitch them up later when I get the time, but do play them in order.

I warn you these are funny, if you drop off your chair laughing, please don't sue me.

The forgotten Marjoe

Marjoe Gortner was the youngest person ordained in a Pentecostal church. He was ordained at age 4 and he performed marriages and stuff. Born in 1945, he was a child preacher but in 1972, he came clean and exposed the game he could no longer play. Leaving the revival circuit life style he turned to being a hippy. Marjoe was honest, he knew there was something wrong, and he faced up to it. I pray for Marjoe that he may hear the real Gospel, rather than the show he was led to believe it to be.

This second video is quite blunt and revealing. There is money to be made in revivalism and pietism and this second video shows it. One of the most alluring thing is that when lives are said to have been changed by a person's ministry, that sort of validates that the person must be a true teacher- NOT. I leave you to it to be shocked and awed based on this second video.

As a hurried update to Marjoe, here is an article of Sarah Kernochan who produced the documentary about Marjor in 1972 that won an Academy Award.

Since Past Elder and I have been discussing charismaticism lately, I BTW dedicate this post to him, as a new friend in this wide world of blog. Since we have on our radar the activities of people like Mr. John Osteen and the others like Mr. Benny Hinn, I think it will do well that we remember Marjoe as well as pray for all of them (and us too).

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Champion in you, now

Well, the Christian bloggers are discussing the teaching of the man our wives want us to be. How can you fault that awesome smile? The guy who is never negative, always positive, who is always patient and gentle, never blows his top and can tell good jokes too! Not only do our wives like him, our grandmas would love to adopt him too.

I do not listen or watch Mr. Osteen's program but it still worries me. His teaching worries me because that positive, encouragement stuff does not lift people from darkness, in fact it keeps people there. What is more is that this type of stuff is being exported out from USA and imported to to South American, Asian and African countries, developing countries where the seduction is magnetic. This guy thinks that our problem is that we are just plain negative or discouraged, he thinks our problem is not sin, so no wonder people love the guy. He is telling the world what it wants to hear.

Well of course, he attributes his success to "God", who in his thinking mind would not? If you don't say it is due to God, then you would be giving yourself away won't you? Who in his thinking mind would like to listen to pastor who is not associating himself with God? Not many.

So today if ever I watch American tele-evangelists on the tubes, I watch to get amused. I know better because I used to be one of the suckers who supported and bought their wares

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Some call it lethargy?

I do not blog on "worship wars". You see I was an ex-RC and I heard the Mass in Latin when I was a young boy. I was accustomed to the timing of when to do the sign of the cross, kneel, stand up and and reply "et cum spiritu tuo". Here is one example of it with my native tongue on the right column.

Then being involved in the Pentecostal church, I know how to do free worship and I even led it. Free worship people also have a liturgy, make no mistake about it. They do not conform to a formal liturgy but they have a liturgy nevertheless. First there is a singing of 4 fast joyful songs, and then followed by 4 soft solemn songs - and you do this for 40 minutes. I can predict what happens in the service.

In both cases, in the formal RC and informal Pentecostal - I can predict what is about to happen and when. They can both leave you dry and what Jesus says when you are comfortable and proud that you are "doing it" Jesus says Mk 7:6. I do believe Jesus is interested in my heart, he is, precisely because it is filled with deceit and wickedness and he wants to cleanse it - cover it with his forgiveness, so I am convinced Jesus is interested in my heart and I agree with my Judge quickly that my heart as not clean.

I can understand the fascination with ritual and formality and the drag of being "high" church. My theory is that pop society and pop culture has been starved of any tradition - even social tradition. Today young people are embarrassed in having any program in their party celebrations such as having a toasts, giving speeches, any social ritual is rejected. Hence, the hunger is explainable. Every ancient culture has some tradition, it is what identifies them and for a people not to have one, not to have a decorum, is to have no identity. So the hunger is understandable, and the liturgy can be used for it. But there is a catch, when it becomes a canon, a Law, then we are back again to works. The liturgy which is designed to uphold the Gospel becomes its robber.

I need not say anything more but commend- Past Elder's - New Wine, Old Wine Skins

The point being, fidelity to the historical liturgy of the church guarantees nothing in itself, and it is possible to use the historic liturgy in a thoroughly heterodox effort. Therefore, the real enemy, if that is the best word, is not non-liturgical services or non-traditional church music, it is doctrine. Teaching.
Here is also my observation, you can rally for the historic or elaborate liturgy and rally for your synod officers to be impeached, you can even be embroiled in your synod politics, criticize colleagues for adopting heterodox methods etc etc, but if you as a pastor aren't giving your people the Law that shows their sin and the Gospel that heals and comforts them in your worship service, all that rallying for liturgy and thumping etc. is just smokescreen. IMHO.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Did not mean to

...cause quite a stir in this blog. Mine was an honest innocent question...I was just asking why is it that Calvinists who believe in baptismal regeneration can quote Calvin on their side, and at the same time Calvinists who reject it, can also quote Calvin on their side too?! It seems to me that Calvin and Melanchton (who were friends) tended to revise some thoughts they had and they kept on re-writing, this does not seem to happen with Luther at least in vital issues like Word and Sacrament. What I mean is that no baptismal regeneration denier can quote Luther on his side. It will never happen.

At any rate, it appears that Calvin believed that baptism conveyed the elect only. That means, some babies and adults are just getting wet. The reasoning seems to be that since the Jewish nation got circumcised and yet not all who were circumcised believed in the Messiah then that meant ( for the church father - Calvin), it is happening only to the elect.

Putting aside the other issues that go with regeneration, let me go back on that reasoning. The question I would have asked next is this - the fact that someone got circumcised during OT times and yet did not believe, did that mean that nothing was given? OK, now look at these baptized folks living like the devil and even denying Christ, so does it prove that they have never been regenerated at their baptism?

I know, it is funny for me to argue this way since I was a credo-bapti-costal.

There is some connection being made by Calvin on a regenerated man and his faith i.e. the regenerate will never abandon faith. This needs some further quizzing. If the baptized individual denies faith does that mean nothing was given to him? Anyway, the more pressing idea is on the elect. In other words, baptismal promises of God are only to the elect as far as this idea of Calvin goes. Since we do not know who are the elect, we may baptize everyone anyway and yet not hold on to the promise of God attached to it. Of course, we will never know who the elect are, besides baptism is effective only for them. So what to do? Believe and not believe baptism does something.

To say that God only regenerates the elect in baptism is to make a tautological statement. In my view it fails to add meaning to the pool of data. From my training, tautologies are helpful only if they add or advance information to the existing knowledge we have. You can forever repeat true statements and yet not terminate your reasoning process with new knowledge. I can prove this; say you have A-->B, B-->C and we want to prove A-->C. You can start by assuming A. Yet you can keep on asserting A-->A again and again, a tautology, you can do this infinitely without terminating the proof. The step is still valid but does not help. See what I mean?

I hope my Calvinistic brothers/sisters see that with those caveats or qualifications on baptism the practice itself looses its sense of meaning, at least that is true in the Reformed camp, of all varieties too. I think this accounts for why there are heated exchanges from within Calvinism in various sectors, between non-regenerative and regenerative, between paedo and credo baptizers etc. This type of squabble does not happen amongst Concordians (I mean at least in this area of baptism). I am a bit sad though, I wish Calvin did not have to modify or re-qualify his statements. There would have been a lot less people becoming upset at each other.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Rock - I'm confessin'

A few years ago one of our famous Pop and Gospel singer penned and sang a song entitled "Could you be Messiah to me"? Well obviously that question need not be asked because indeed Jesus IS Messiah, so I will just let you have a listen to the song and see what you think.

I have been pondering on "what does it mean to confess Jesus as Messiah". I was led to this because a few Sundays back I was asked to take the pulpit of a pastor friend and practicing myself now to speak based on the lectionary reading for that day, I picked on 1 Tim 6:6-19. Verses 12-13 mentions about a "good confession" which Timothy and the Lord made. Now this has led me to think that Paul must have meant Mt 16: 16-18 (after all Scripture interprets Scripture). Similarly, in front of Pilate, Jesus did not deny that He was the Son of God, a King.

The confession, "Jesus is the Christ" according to Jesus is the rock on which his church will be built on. Yes, yes, Rome thinks of this differently and though the dogs may bark, the train still moves on, if you ask me. In short, what is the real message of the Church, is its message Peter is the Rock or Jesus is Messiah, the Christ? We know how we should answer that question and the answer is not both.

The statement that "Jesus is the Christ" is really the statement of the Gospel. It is the short hand way of saying Jesus is the appointed Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, taking it on him on the Cross and being raised from the dead for the forgiveness of the world. I believe this is what is meant when one makes that confession. I say this because Peter himself missed the meaning of this even though he confessed it. Right after confessing he prevents Jesus from going to the Cross and got called satan for it. So he missed the impact of what he confessed. To say that Jesus is Messiah is to say the message of the Gospel.

The Church which is being built by Christ then is a Church that confesses He is Messiah, it confesses the Gospel, for that is what Messiahship means.

I read in the Apology coincidentally these words in Article III...
To seek forgiveness of sins from Him was truly to acknowledge the Messiah. To think of Christ this way, to worship Him this way, is truly to believe.

Louis Armstrong sang a song "I'm confessin'" which is a confession of his love for his girl, but as Christians we are confessin too, we are confessing we are not the Christ, but Jesus is.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Epistemologically speaking

Over at Parchment and Pen, an interesting post and conversation is happening. It is quite controversial because the Rev. C. Michael Patton has a view which to my reading is similar to what some Concordians have articulated before. For him the canon is not closed. Well in a way it is and in a way it is not. So I'd let you read his post but the comments, needless to say have grown quite long so be careful with your time!

Unlike other confessions, the BoC (and this I noticed right away) does not have a list of canonical books compared to the WCF. The question of canonicity and closeness of the canon is quite important simply because Protestants do shout sola scriptura. Of course to be clear, the Concordians have a different way of treating scripture, by the word "alone" it does not mean no church, council or tradition. They mean (correct me if I am wrong), the Scripture is the final rule of faith. It does not deny that there are other rules of faith only that the final rule is Scripture. Some Prots circumvent that and chuck other rules of faith like creeds and confessions and history etc. i.e. by-passing them as irrelevant and head to the Scripture "naked". I remember a denom priding it self with the slogan - 'no creed but the Bible'.

In return the Roman and Orthodox Churches (apologists) challenge that by saying -'how do you know it is the list of books if it was not for the Magisterium/Church who told you that in the first place', hence, their thesis is that to have an infallible Bible, you need an infallible asserter for that and that is the Church. Plainly stated "you can not have an infallible Bible, if you do not have an infallible Church/Magisterium who tells you that it is infallible".

The implication of this is the question of an epistemological starting points. You can choose I think three starting points both carrying an embedded presupposition.

1. The church is infallible (Roman/Orthodox)
2. The bible is infallible (generic Prots)
3. Jesus is the Christ (Concordians?)

Being a mathematician by training, I can attest to you right now that I can witness to infallible statements without me being infallible. I make an infallible statement each time I say 1+1=2. Within the proper usage and consistent use of those terms, my assertion is true and can be proven by arithmetic (number theory). Option #1 is not true by experience and will be discovered to entail circularity because the RC/EO also refers to Biblical passages to affirm so.

Option #2, also appeals to Scripture itself and so the RC/EO counters by saying - how do you know you have the complete list since Scripture is a book of books? I do not go for Option #2 because to me the church is founded on the confession that Jesus is the Christ and what that entails so as expected I lean to Option #3.

So what about Option #3, is this a sound propositional starting point from which we can build all of our Godly knowledge of life and the world etc? I think so. Firstly I believe Jesus taught scripture alone so at the end of the day, you can have all your approaches but Jesus knows better and if you do not line up with his, you are on shifting sand. Option#2 proponents doubt if Option #3 does not wind up in circularity. Perhaps people in Option #1 will chime in and side with Option #1 here.

I do not think it does, because first attestation of Jesus is Messiah were by the Apostles, they wrote this attestation down and I believe it. Yes the Church did attest that this was written by the Apostle or was inspired by the Holy Spirit, yet I did not believe it because simply they said it, for there is the object, it is there for me to examine and I find its contents sensible. There was no necessity or presupposition on my part that they had to be infallible in order for me to make sense of a proposition they make. I am a mathematician by training and when I see an elegant and brilliant proof, I admire it but no way do I attribute the creators of the proof with infallibility'.

This Messiah says too that the Scripture can not be broken. If someone asks me which are these lists of books that is said to be Scripture - I tell them - go ask Jesus. I guess the whole point of the Bible being infallible is for the Christian to continue to believe that he has eternal life in the Son, is that not the whole point? For faith and practice of course, but is it not in the context of "Jesus is the Christ"? As far as I can tell from the Scripture that has been received, Jesus says to trust no one but him.

Now I have not fully worked this out because right now I am savoring the implication of that confession - Jesus is the Christ.

So I want to know where my epistemological starting point is weak, sensible or not feasible at all. Setting me straight can only be a good thing.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

What is the point?

Today is Thursday (my time). Every Thursday night we have bible study in my home and we have been going through the Book of Romans. It has been almost a year now. I thank the Lord, we have come now to Romans 9.

This morning, a loved one who attends the bible study asked me an interesting question.

Q: What is the meaning of this (bible study)? How has this affected or even changed our lives? What is the point of this (activity)?

This is how I answered this question.

A: The point is that though I hate and am angry at myself, and though I hate and am angry at my life, I want to know that God does not hate me nor is angry with me,..... but rather loves me.

I guess what I was alluding to was my search and constant assurance of 'favor Dei' [favor of God, i.e. Grace]. We know of course this is Jesus. John 1:17

How would you answer the question?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Will the "real" one please stand up.

Sometimes, theological labels are important in that it identifies where one's conviction is.

From what I gathered, the Augsburg Confessors where labeled with the "L" word by the RC Magisterium as a form of ridicule. It was meant as an insulting term, a designator for a certain brand of heretical movement in Christendom. They were also called "Protestants" too. In fact they were the first Protestants.

Now I read the retraction of this brother here.

What is interesting is that he says that the Augsburgers were the ones who coined the term "Reformed". I wonder if anyone has some information on this. Anyway this is what he says:

I thought being "Reformed" was believing in predestination, or TULIP. Well, that was a huge mistake. I wanted to be "Reformed" and so I changed the definition of "Reformed" to suit my taste. I wanted to be counted in the theological outlook of Westminster, with just a few tweaks here or there, so I fell into the same trap that "Reformed Baptists" fall into today - they claim the title and are not honest to admit that they cannot possibly be Reformed with holding to Reformed Theology. So instead, I redefined "Reformed" to simply mean - I believe in TULIP. Historically, this is a misnomer. It simply is historically impossible to demonstrate. Ask any Baptist where "Reformed" came from, and he'll point you to the Synod of Dorst. Little does he know it is a direct reference, written by a Lutheran, to explain the ecclesiology of Calvin's Institutes. In other words, being Reformed meant 1) Covenant Theology, 2) Paedobaptist, 3) following Calvin's view of the Lord's Supper, and 4) the ecclesiology of the Institutes. In other words, Baptists simply cannot be Reformed in any sense of the word.
To be honest with you, I think the word "Reformed" is getting to be a precious word, it is becoming the "in" word amongst modern evangelicals specially in the Internet. See this article in Christianity Today, I know it is old but it is still a trend amongst the young ones who are noticing the shallowness of what evangelicalism has become.

The Calvinistic brand is important such that there is a fight to find out who is "Truly Reformed". I know it was a word I tagged myself in conversation back in those days when my helicopter was hovering over Westminster or Geneva. In fact I have heard it said as a self-identity with a bit of pompousness. I do not recommend it, IMHO, it is not the place to land, the terrain is rocky and there is flux (see for example Federal Vision, New Perspective on Paul etc). Anyway, I no longer have a dog on this fight, except to say that I doubt if that is that is the place one should park his tent. If you are wandering in the dessert of evangelicalism looking for water, I doubt if you should journey towards Westminster or Geneva, see here for such a journey.

So now I ask my self the question, should I wear my label proudly? I do not deny what my confession is, and in fact I told my pastor colleagues about my retractions, where I have been led. So should I be "proud" in the sense of "boast"? Although I am not ashamed of what I confess, I think not.

Let Christ be everything and us be nothing.

30And because of him[d] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us(AT) wisdom from God,(AU) righteousness and(AV) sanctification and(AW) redemption, 31so that, as it is written,(AX) "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." 1 Cor 1: 31

PS. See the former 5 pointer turned 5-Pinter 'calvinist' too.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Preaching Again

It has been awhile. This Sunday the only remaining Penty pastor who maintains friendship with me and has never changed in his relation with me despite my separate path, a man many years my senior, has asked if I can deliver the message to his church this Sunday.

A couple of years ago, when I was convinced that I should be a confessing evangelical, I wrote to my pastor friends who regularly ask me to take their pulpits of my confession of faith, that I have subscribed to the BoC. I felt I must not hide my colors and be honest, I felt that I should come out. Some call this coming out of the closet. I felt that I would be dishonest, taking their churches for 6 weeks or so, assuming the pastoral work of their parish while they go on vacation, is a very serious thing. Besides, they can trust me that when they come back, the church is still in tact, no splits, no people following me to be their pastor etc etc (I have no interest). But knowing in my heart that I no longer held to the doctrine and practice of a Pentecostal and continue taking the pulpit without saying a word is to me being devious. I must not be that way so I wrote them a letter explaining. Since I wrote that letter, none have invited me back. I do not mind this at all. I respect this move. So what is the point of my rambling here?

I absolutely respect the prerogative of not being invited to preach, I would do the same thing too. What was painful was that you are no longer considered a friend since you have changed your "denomination". What was a source of suffering was being isolated as if you did not use to, as said in the Psalms - "walk to the temple together". In order for us to be friends, must we be in the same level of walk, must we be 100% in conviction in order for us to be friends? I found this part of the experience astounding. What more when I wrote that letter, none wrote back or contacted me to ask - "ok, tell us why you are what you are now"? One of them was quite close to me than the others and yet I had to be the one to invite that we might sit and share where I am at.

Let me tell you about the Pentecostal culture. Sadly amongst Pentecostals, your changing church/denomination (in fact, even if you move to another Pentecostal church) is interpreted as a testimony that there is something wrong with them and because you have slighted them, you are no longer to be treated as a friend, even though you have years and years of memories of having warm and caring relationships you shared together. That goes out the door, too. That move you did is to be taken personally. Amazingly for folks who are known to be spiritual, some if not most, act immature. I can imagine being said of me what I heard said of others - "the man has become dead, he has become religious".

No I am not bitter, I realize we are sinners and this is what we do. I do not think I was being naive when I wrote that letter. If there was naiveness it would be in expecting that being frank was something that should be appreciated.

So the moral of the story is this - do not try this at home. When you seek the pure Gospel or focus on the simplicity of just having Jesus or adopt the Cross as your theology, there is suffering involved. You will violate Dale Carnegie's principle of winning friends and influencing people, instead you will create enemies and alienate folks.

29Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, (Z)there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel's sake, 30but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in (AA)the age to come, eternal life. Mk 10:29-30.

Sometimes, God allows us pain so that in that lostness, He might have an opportunity to comfort us. You are welcome too to share your losses here, should you care. But oh, what comfort these words bring...!